The Impact of University Leadership on Career Growth

In today’s world, most students complete high school and dream of going to university. Of course, don’t we all? Attending university marks the next stepping stone of our lives, serving as the elevation point from a teenager into adulthood. Most people define their university experience as an overall learning lesson in preparation for their much-anticipated future career.

One major investment young students can make during university is undertaking opportunities that serve to strengthen their leadership acumen. Leadership at university can come in various forms such as being on the committee of a society or student club, launching your own projects, and carrying out undergraduate research or serving in the student councils.

Engaging in these opportunities doesn’t automatically happen overnight. It is a process that takes time, patience, passion, and dedication to deliver long-term impact. You often join student clubs or sports team as a beginner member and by active participation, value contribution, and showing long-term commitment, you can eventually end up being the president of the entire student club in your 2nd or 3rd year. Over time, with more leadership experience, comes incredible skills that are useful to bring to the professional work environment. It will help you grow faster in your career as you’re able to make bold decisions, lead and mentor your colleagues effectively, and ultimately drive incremental value within organisations. These will help you achieve accelerated career growth and professional success.

Me (Mohamed Suwaid) with one of the co-founders (Taras Mogetich) running the onboarding sessions for 60+ student consultants for 180 Degrees Consulting Bristol.

Personally, this is the mindset I adopted for myself which helped me become the president of 3 student clubs at university. I also co-founded a social impact consultancy within the 180 degrees consulting network, which ultimately won the most innovative consultancy branch in the world. These experiences definitely played a key role in getting me into LSE for my masters, making my job search easier, and helping me accumulate skills to become a more productive, a higher performing, and an impact-driven individual. Currently, I am the founder of a career advancement start-up called “Graduate Scope”, often leveraging my leadership skills from university to drive the business forward.

So, now that you have a basic understanding of how leadership opportunities at university can fuel rapid career growth, let’s look at specific steps and the type of skills you will be gaining over time and how this directly translates to growth in all types of career fields.

At university, there are mainly three forms of opportunities to deepen your sense of leadership. The 1st type could be extracurricular opportunities such as professional or sports clubs. The 2nd type could be launching your project or venture, which could be a business, a charity, a blog – just anything that you self-initiate and see through its continual progress. The 3rd type could be related to academic leadership, which could involve academic research, or even hosting academic conferences & events.

As you can see, no matter what field of study you have chosen, there’s always an opportunity to bring out the inner leader within you. Whether you’re looking to venture out as an entrepreneur like myself, or preparing for a career in finance, consulting, healthcare, tech, law, politics, research, or any other field – there is always something for you to build skills as a leader to help you thrive in your chosen field.

The 3 forms of leadership described above can enable you to build a foundation of unique leadership skills. Leadership, although being a skill in itself, can contain numerous variations of skills within. I believe these are the 4 skills best built through engaging in leadership opportunities at university: communication, team collaboration, managerial, and commitment.

Firstly, nurturing your communication skills will allow you to translate ideas, opinions, and solutions in a more structured manner. Interacting with team members, employees, managers, executives, and customers becomes more seamless. This helps build relationships faster, and the world truly is a “your network is your net worth” kind of world!

Secondly, in the work world, another key trait to have is collaboration. Your sense of collaboration improves as you work with team members, stakeholders, committees, and faculty, for example. In your career, collaboration helps you work more effectively with people towards a collective goal. Getting there faster and better equals career growth.

Thirdly, you are uniquely building your managerial skills more than any other opportunity that traditional academics can ever provide you. Here, you are expanding the skillset of overseeing people and projects outside the academic environment, which helps you become someone who drives value in the workplace as opposed to a contributor.

Finally, university leadership opportunities teach you a higher level of patience, commitment, and resilience. You often have to commit to these activities alongside your normal academics. Often times, it takes a lot of dedication and effort to keep doing it and achieving noticeable results but trust me, the process is worth it. You grow both as an individual and a professional.

To wrap things up, I am a firm believer in university leadership. Ultimately, the entire phenomenon helps you learn more lessons, build more skills, and drive more value and this combination will take your career to the next level at an accelerated rate.

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